by Jean-Pierre Barbéris, General Manager Bull France and Bull Services & Solutions
Innovation, industrialization, international: three words that sum up Bull’s approach when it comes to outsourcing. They reflect a creative and pragmatic approach, that aims to provide our customers with the security and peace of mind that their solutions really fit their business.
The considerable acceleration of economic and technological cycles is forcing IT Departments to work more closely with their internal customers, so they can support them in their constant evolution and rapidly identify opportunities offered by new tools. So IT teams are being driven to get involved earlier and earlier in the IT value chain. At the same time, further downstream, IT operations and maintenance are subject to growing demands: complexity is exploding because of the sheer richness and heterogeneous nature of today’s systems, while expectations in terms of performance and cost control are constantly getting higher. And the current economic crisis is further amplifying these trends, as economic and competitive pressures intensify. Against this backdrop, outsourcing is establishing itself as an particularly appropriate solution, because it offers a holistic approach to tackling this multiplicity of challenges: handing over responsibility for some of the downstream tasks, getting a tighter grip on costs, creating the conditions for a more flexible information system that is capable of evolving, and establishing a contractual basis for fundamental criteria (performance levels, availability, protection of both data and systems…). Bull’s outsourcing offering has done much more than just profit from these favourable conditions, as it is currently growing faster than the market. Without a doubt, the explanation for this success rests in Bull’s unique positioning, which draws both on its unrivalled technological heritage and its detailed analysis of its customers’ needs. According to Bull, outsourcing can be summed up in just three words: Innovation – Industrialization – International-wide.
When it comes to outsourcing, innovation can mean a number of things: technological innovation, innovation in the service content, contractual innovation… As a multi-skilled Group, Bull has the advantage of being both a designer of, and contributor to, leading-edge technologies such as High-Performance Computing and Open Source, and it remains in step with the needs of public and private sector organizations alike. This is what enables the company to respond in such an original way – through outsourcing – to emerging and/or complex problems and issues. For example, Bull has developed an unprecedented HPC-on-demand solution for French bank Société Générale, which wanted flexible access to large-scale computing resources to support its financial activities. This is a perfect illustration of Bull’s pragmatic and yet creative approach: the aim is not to squeeze customer issues into the limits of standard contracts, but rather to design the most appropriate technical, human, financial and legal solution, in partnership with the customer. When Bull and Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council in the UK decided to create a joint venture, to build and operate a Data Center together, this was a highly specific response which took account of the significant social and political aspects of the project. This kind of approach requires great flexibility and open-mindedness, as well as high-level technical skills. Above all, customers are looking for commitment and results, and the supplier has to prove that it is capable of building systems that will meet those expectations. Bull’s hosting of the French government’s main public services portal monservicepublic.fr (which gets tens of millions of hits a year) and the critical Web hosting capabilities of its subsidiary Agarik, clearly illustrate this expertise.
But putting in place appropriate and correctly scoped systems is only the first step: the real role of the outsourcer is to ensure – day in, day out, no matter what the circumstances – that the customer’s systems remain available and maintain their performance. To progress from simply meeting the technical characteristics, to providing guaranteed service levels, requires an ‘industrial’ type of organization. Which is why ‘industrialization’ is the second key asset of Bull’s approach to outsourcing. The development of veritable ‘IT factories’, capable of providing resources on demand, is currently a pronounced trend, especially with the emergence of ‘Cloud computing’. With its history as an IT maker and its experience of operating very large-scale infrastructures, Bull is perfectly positioned in the forefront of this movement. In order to stay ahead, Bull is constantly investing in its Data Centers in France or in other countries, methods (through certifications and adopting best practices) and people (training). As a result of this big effort, and continuous capitalization on expertise, Bull is in an excellent position to take charge of even the most complex of its customers’ systems and offer them a reliable, robust and easy-to-use service.
IT Managers are extremely keen on ease of use: outsourcing contracts must be easy to manage, through a transparent governance and the use of ‘units of work’; information systems have to be easy to control, by providing consistent, summarized dashboards; easy- to-use interfaces, thanks to the use of open standards; and the end users must find the systems themselves easy to use… Customers expect solutions that look as though they are their own, and which correspond to the key concerns of their business, their culture. And this is only possible if the outsourcing service is physically closer and closer to the customer: which is why ‘international’ is the third and final asset of Bull’s outsourcing approach. Although it already has Data Centers in France, the UK and the USA, Bull is planning to extend its number of facilities, most notably in Europe. This expansion is not aimed at competing with the ‘giants’ of the sector, but to enable Bull to offer its international customers local services and support, which in our view is essential to the long-term success of an outsourcing operation. In effect, it is only by building up a fundamental understanding of the customer and its business that you can fully reap the benefits of technical expertise, the capacity for innovation and industrial-scale resources. Orchestrating these skills in order to deliver the optimum solution for our customers’ information systems: that is the real thinking behind the three ‘I’s that characterize Bull’s approach to outsourcing.